Ending preventable maternal mortality (EPMM) remains an unfinished agenda and one of the world’s most critical challenges. Maternal health, wellbeing and survival must remain a central goal and investment priority in the post-2015 framework for sustainable development. “A grand convergence” is within reach (1), where through concerted efforts we can reduce the highest levels of maternal deaths worldwide to rates now observed in the best-performing middle-income countries.
EPMM targets and strategies are grounded in a human rights approach to maternal and newborn health, and focus on eliminating significant inequities that lead to disparities in access, quality as well as outcomes of care within and between countries. Attention to maternal mortality must be accompanied by improvements along the continuum of care, including commitments to sexual and reproductive health, family planning, and newborn and child survival. High-functioning maternal health programmes must address the changing environment described in the “obstetric transition” (2), in which the primary causes of maternal death shift toward indirect causes as fertility and maternal mortality ratios decline. Essential to understanding the immediate and underlying causes of maternal deaths and developing evidence-informed, context-specific programme interventions to avert future deaths, is the ability to count every maternal and newborn death.
In the transition from the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (3), attention to reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity must be accompanied by improvements along the continuum of care for women and children. In particular linkages with the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) (4) under the broad umbrella of the Global Strategy for women’s, children’s, and adolescent health are crucial. The Global Strategy for women’s and children’s health which is an update of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy 2010–2015 (5) will help to mobilize global, regional, national and community-level commitment for sexual and reproductive health, maternal, newborn and child survival (6).